Aston challenges and reshapes the on-going debate concerning social status, economic opportunity, and gender roles in nineteenth-century society.
Sources including trade directories, census returns, probate records, newspapers, advertisements, and photographs are analysed and linked to demonstrate conclusively that women in nineteenth-century England were far more prevalent in business than previously acknowledged. Moreover, women were able to establish and expand their businesses far beyond the scope of inter-generational caretakers in sectors of the economy traditionally viewed as unfeminine, and acquire the assets and possessions that were necessary to secure middle-class status. These women serve as a powerful reminder that the middle-class woman’s retreat from economic activity during the nineteenth-century, so often accepted as axiomatic, was not the case. In fact, women continued to act as autonomous and independent entrepreneurs, and used business ownership as a platform to participate in the economic, philanthropic, and political public sphere.
About the Author
Jennifer Aston is Junior Research Fellow and Retained Lecturer in History at Pembroke College, Oxford, and Research Assistant on the ESRC-funded Professions in Nineteenth Century Britain project, History Faculty, Oxford, UK. She previously held the Eileen Power Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK. Her research focuses on gender, entrepreneurship and business in nineteenth-century Britain.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Chapter 1: Locating Female Business Owners in the Historiography
Chapter 2: Women and their Businesses
Chapter 3: Who was the Victorian Businesswoman?
Chapter 4: The Social Network
Chapter 5: Life After Death